Last week the Austrian consortium Kapsch Traffic Solutions won the public procurement order related to the design, construction and implementation of a electronic toll collection system in Bulgaria for the use of the national road network. The new toll system will be distance-based for vehicles of Total Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass exceeding 3.5 tons and time-based for light vehicles with a Total Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass of up to 3.5 tons. The time period for the implementation of the procurement order is 19 months and the vignette stickers of the light vehicles will be replaced with electronic vignette after the introduction of the new toll collection system. Recently, Bulgaria’s Minister of Transport Ivaylo Moscovski said that the construction and implementation of the new toll collection system is of great importance, because this system is part of the total plan for stabilization and sustainability in transport. The expected revenues from the road toll system amount to EUR 500 million per year, which would guarantee good maintenance of the country’s road network, Minister Moscovski also said. However, carriers in road transport fear that the new system will place a huge financial burden on their sector and would result in bankruptcies of small companies. “We are not against an electronic toll system, but that system should be properly implemented”, the Chairman of the Union of Road Transport Organizations and the National Transport Chamber engineer Koicho Rusev told Radio Bulgaria. In his words, in most EU countries the electronic toll collection system covers nearly 15% of their road network, mainly motorways and first-class roads, whereas it became clear that in Bulgaria the new toll collection system will cover around 80% of the country’s road network, which is quite unfair, Koicho Rusev went on to say and added:
“The argument that by introducing a toll tax of up to 70-100 EUR per 350-450 kilometers Bulgaria will collect enough money from foreign cargo vehicles which cross Bulgaria is a mere excuse and is not a solution to the problem. The number of foreign vehicles crossing Bulgaria on a daily basis ranges from 800 to 1,000, i.e. nearly 300,000 foreign vehicles cross this country per year. Let us now assume that we charge each foreign vehicle crossing Bulgaria with EUR 100. It turns out that the total revenues from toll taxes collected from these vehicles amount to EUR 30 million per year only. The Bulgarian authorities forecast that nearly EUR 500 million will be collected by the new road toll system per year. The average revenues from vignettes amount to EUR 100 million on an annual basis. In other words, over EUR 350 million will be paid by the local carriers which operate within Bulgaria.”
In Koicho Rusev’s view, all carriers will be affected by the new electronic toll system, especially the small companies:
“According to Bulgaria’s Minister of Transport, the new electronic toll system will guarantee fair distribution of cargo between water, railway, road and air transport. What does he mean? He means that the expenses of the road carriers will increase and the Bulgarian companies would choose other types of carriers. There is a deficit of cargo in this country anyway and the bankruptcies of companies in our sector are inevitable. ”
In Koicho Rusev’s words, the authorities have not done enough to fight unfair competition. “The companies which are not part of the gray economy will find themselves in a very difficult situation after the introduction of the new road taxes. There are other ways to collect money, if our main problem is to make the foreign vehicles crossing Bulgaria pay more. In my view, it would be fair if the authorities find any solution within the excise duty, because the spent fuel tells us exactly how we use the transport network. Cargo vehicles use most fuel and light vehicles use much less. So, we can adopt and additional tax within the excise duty, although nearly 30 Eurocents currently go to the state budget from each liter of fuel in the form of excise duty.”
In Koicho Rusev’s words, if freight vehicles are made to pay EUR 100 per 350-400 kilometers after the introduction of the new toll system, their expenses will increase by 25 Eurocents per kilometer. “In other words, each cargo vehicle will have to pay an extra EUR 200 from Sofia to the Black Sea coast and back, which is an onerous burden for each carrier. We must hold serious talks on this issue and agree on a reasonable price after detailed professional analyses”, Koicho Rusev says in conclusion.